Tag Archives: Apple

Why you should move from Word to Pages

[This post originally appeared on Medium.]

Logo_Pages○ Word is expensive, Pages is free.

○ Pages used to be bad at footnotes (while Word was always superb). Now it’s fine.

○ Word used to have a brilliant “selection” feature for sentences (Command + Click) that many writers found indispensable. Microsoft eliminated it. Then they put it back. (But by that time I was gone. Please, Apple programmers, could we have one of these for Pages.)

○ Pages is better than Word at producing well behaved PDFs. Images in the PDF are more stationary. The PDFs produced by Pages are higher resolution than those produced by Word.

○ Pages is not quite as good as Word at giving us a “map” of chapter headings. But its “bookmarks” feature is catching up. (Apple only need to look at “sidebar” then “navigation” to see why the Word version is stronger. It’s more compact and it distinguishes between chapters and subchapters.)

○ Pages handles Tables of Content more elegantly (and more automatically). Word TOC needed to be refreshed with each change to headings in the manuscript. This was a pain.

○ Pages handles the “find” function more efficiently.

○ Pages converts Word documents faultlessly, as nearly as I can tell.

○ Pages feels simpler and smarter. Less feature bloat. More “all but only” the features we need. By this time, Word is a bit of a Frankenstein. Microsoft has been “adding to” instead of “starting again” for years now.

Some big changes start small. I have written over a million words with Word. This made me what you might call a loyal user, or at least a habitual one. Then Word withdrew that “sentence selection” feature. Clearly it was an oversight because eventually they put it back.

But this sudden, apparently thoughtless, change started a cascade.

I began searching for another word processor and I auditioned several, including Mellel, Byword, Scrivener, Pages, iA Writer Pro and Ulysses. (I love Scrivener, but the lack of WYSIWYG, and the need to fiddle with output, drives me crazy.)

Once Pages demonstrated new skill with footnotes and PDFs, I signed on.

And now that I was done with Word, I began to think about leaving Powerpoint. I was already using Keynote some of the time.

And now that I was out of Word and Powerpoint, I could consider dumping Excel.
All of a sudden, I was post-Microsoft.

Microsoft has never made the best software. It has relied on an installed base, and the lethargy of people like me. But eventually, at least for me, their cynicism and/or indifference caught up with them.

And things slid away. No black swan. No radical disruption. No act of competitor innovation.

Just a self inflicted wound.

And one user escapes his Office captivity. How about you?

iPhone combat: Bloggers: 1, Jean-Louis Gassee: 0

screen-shot-2016-09-19-09-04-17-pm

I’m a big fan of Jean-Louis Gassée. So I was pleased to see a new post from him today

It’s called iPhone Nonsensus: Apple’s Debt To Bloggers.

Gassee goes after bloggers, specifically Steve Kovach of Tech Insider, for their criticism of the iPhone 7. He believes the bloggers failed to see that the 7 has an market shifting advantage after all, the new dual camera.

How did the pundits miss the obvious advantages of a dual camera? The improvement is indisputable and easy to demonstrate: The second “telephoto” lens is more appropriate for many pictures; faces, for instance, aren’t seen at their best advantage by the usual wide-angle lens.

Gassee contends that bloggers have failed to see that picture-taking is where the iPhone creates extraordinary value.

We now reach the absurdity: One of the most popular picture-taking devices on earth (the iPhone is either the world’s number one digital camera, or very close) is heavily rumored to be gaining a significant improvement — a second camera — but no, the blogosphere reached a “nonsensus” and steadfastly stuck to it. Nothing to see here…move on to the sure-to-be-groundbreaking 2017 iPhone 8…

Gassee is right to say that cameras matter. A couple of years ago I wrote a post called ARE PHOTOS A SECRET INGREDIENT OF THE INTERNET ECONOMY?

Here’s my argument:

We tend to think that photos matter because they are a record of the world. But this is only the necessary condition of their significance. The reason they really matter is that they are the single, smallest, richest, cheapest, easiest token of value and meaning online. We mint them. We trade them. We accumulate them. We treasure them.

So I agree with Gassee in general terms. But I think he is wrong in the particular.

Yes, photos matter. But the real question here is: do telephoto photos matter?  And the answer is, probably, not really.

The reason photos matter is that they have social significance.

Individually, photos are content coursing through our personal “economies.” They are the single most efficient way to build and sustain our social networks. We gift people with photos. They reciprocate. Hey, presto, a social world emerges.

Collectively, photos create a currency exchange. They are a secret machine for seeing, sharing, stapling, opening, sustaining and making relationships. Want to know where networks are going? See who is giving what to whom, in the photo department. Photos are in constant flight. They are a kind of complex adaptive system out of which some of our social order comes.

The iPhone camera got better. But consumers won’t care about this particular improvement because the existing camera is already doing the social job that needs to be done. A telephoto photo will not improve the iPhone as a social instrument, as a means by which we see, share, staple, open, sustain and make our social relationships.

In sum, the iPhone 7 does not have a realistic hope of an extraordinary consumer response…at least not because it has an improved camera. From the essential social point of view, there is no improvement.

Bloggers 1, Gassee 0

What Apple is really working on

I sat down to wonder what Apple is working on.

I came to the conclusion that it’s not a watch or a TV.

It’s a version of telepresence so good it will be a little like teleportation, so good, that is to say, we will actually want to use it.

How do I know?  Well, of course, I don’t. My method was a kind of telepresence ethnography.  I used empathy to take up residence in the Apple culture and I saw, or think I saw, two things:

1. that Apple wants to do great things.  Reinventing the watch and the TV are too small.

2. that Apple wants to prove it can do great things without its guru, Steve Jobs.

What, I wondered, is big enough to be big enough for Apple?  Telepresence feels right.  To create this would be to transform the home, the work place, education, and perhaps also the city.  Apple does it again.

Anyhow, that’s the argument.

You can find the post at the Harvard Business Review Blog by clicking here.

If you have comments, I’d be grateful if you would please leave them at the HBR Blog. Thanks!

Credits: Thank you to BioShock for the image.

How fast are we traveling? iPad2 as a measure

We are traveling at speed.  And we move faster and faster.

That’s the assumption.

But a little voice in my head says, "but is this just the thing we like to think about ourselves?  What’s the proof, actually?"

Well, here’s some proof.

This is from Jony Ive, Senior Vice President of Design at Apple.

In the event that announces the iPad2, Ive says

I can’t think of a product that has defined an entire category, and then has been completely redesigned in such a short period of time.  

As Steve Jobs points out in the opening moments of the event, the iPad2 redesign comes as the competition is just now struggling to catch up to the first iPad.  

I think the conventional wisdom was to exploit the advantage, especially when you are a category-creator (and not merely a successful innovator).  

So, at least for this player, at least in this category, the pace of change is extraordinary.  

References

The Apple event video is here.  Mr. Ive’s comment comes at the 62:53 mark.  

“It” extraction (killing a brand softly)

Last week, quietly and without fanfare, ThinkPad decided not to renew its flagship model, the X301. 

The X301 is a beautiful machine.  It has that wonderful ThinkPad keyboard, a huge screen, and it weighs only a little bit more than a ballet slipper.  It is a miraculous demonstration of what design and engineer can do.

And now it’s done for.  Lenovo is proposing the ThinkPad T410s as the x301s replacement.   When called upon to explain himself, Lenovo Marketing Director, Wang Lipin said that T400 series was more powerful than the x301, and cheaper by a thousand dollars.

The trouble: the T400 doesn’t have “it” quality.  It is a business machine in the most pedestrian sense of the term.  No trace of elegance.  No claim to being the pick of the technological litter.  No “wow” factor.  The T410 is just another business machine. 

This takes us into one of the thorniest issue in the branding world.  What is “it?”  And what’s “it” worth? 

It’s a difficult discussion because “it” is inscrutable.  We can point to “it.”  We know “it” when we see it.  But when it comes to anatomizing, measuring, and pricing “it,” well, this proves difficult and all the marketing and pricing models break down. 

This would be a mere irritation if “it” weren’t such a gusher in the tech world.  But it is.  All of us can buy a phone that is smarter, faster and cheaper than the iPhone.  But none of these has “it” status.  We may not be able to measure “it,” but we don’t hesitate to pay the premium it demands of us.  

Apple turns out to be pretty good at “it.”  In fact, Apple now pretty much owns “it” in the computer world at the moment. 

Except when it come to the lightest, full function lap top.  The Apple entry in this category, the MacBook Air, is a pretty good machine.  But that’s all it is.  A pretty good machine.  It doesn’t have “it.”  Until last week, that belonged to ThinkPad.

So why did Lenovo perform an “it” extraction?  That’s clear enough.  It was making a rational business decision.  It was applying a pricing model.  It may well have been working from Robert Dolan’s exemplary text book on the topic.  This was a perfectly sensible marketing decision.

But it was of course an absolutely disastrous business decision, one that may cost Lenovo dearly.  When Lenovo took the “it” out of ThinkPad, it gave up the only branding advantage it had over Apple.   Sadder still, it destroyed much of the brand value that prompted Lenovo to buy ThinkPad from IBM in the first place.  Having taken on a brand that would help it fight its way out of the commodity basement, it has now descended into that commodity basement, slamming the door behind it as it goes. 

Lenovo’s “it extraction” was a good, rational, pricing decision.  But if we are not protecting “it” when our designers and engineers gift us with it, if we are not building the brand that protects us from the commodity basement, our decision, rational by some narrow standard, is wildly irrational by any broader one. 

Commerce isn’t good at imponderables.  And “it” is nothing if not imponderable.  The fault lies largely on the side of the design house and the ad agency.  When asked to measure and account for “it,” and every cultural moments has it’s its (it girls, it brands, it activities, it restaurants, it industries), designers and agency people demurred.  “Oh, listen, don’t bother your pretty little heads about it,” they said to the client.  “This is what you pay us for.  We’ll keep track of it.  You just get product on the shelf.”  (If only they had a Chief Culture Officer.)

So it’s not entirely surprising that pricing models don’t have anything to say about “it."  And it’s not surprising that senior managers boot this sort of decision with some frequency.  But when you think about how much value “it” creates for us, how essential it is to the life of the corporation, and how much there is at stake in terms of careers and brands, isn’t it time we did better?   

Put these on the business conference agenda.  What is it?  What’s it worth?  How do we price it?  How do we manage it?  In the meantime, hire a CCO.  

References

Dolan, Robert J., and Hermann Simon. 1997. Power Pricing. Free Press.  

Lai, Richard. 2010. “Lenovo ThinkPad X300 series to be phased out, replaced by T400 this year.” Engadget. here. (Accessed July 21, 2010).

McCracken, Grant. 2009. Chief Culture Officer: How to Create a Living, Breathing Corporation. Basic Books.  

Hobbes, John. 2010. “BREAKING: Lenovo ThinkPad X301 to be discontinued, supplanted by T410s.” Logic ThinkPad. July 13. here. (Accessed July 21, 2010).

Why the iPad will flourish

[This essay was written in the first week of the iPad, when some were saying it would be a flop.  Now that it sales have reached a million, everyone accepts that the iPad is here to stay.*  But in this first week, my title was a little riskier.  I would have published it that week, but of course my blog has been down for a month.]

My iPad has left the factory!  I woke up this morning to discover it entered the UPS system in Shenzhen at 4:30 AM China time.  It will take several days to cross an ocean and a continent.  This leaves me plenty of time to wrestle with Apple expectation and my buyer’s remorse. 

Apple expectation is a wonderful place to be.  It’s that gap between hearing about the latest gizmo from Cupertino and owning one.  It is encouraged by press coverage, fan boy speculation, wild rumors and eventually those lines at Apple retail.  The only real question: will this gizmo be as great as Steve says?  Or will it be much, much better?

Buyer’s remorse is another matter.  This uncertainty haunts the purchase of every big ticket item.  And it’s a special problem in the tech world.  I bet 20% of our tech purchases disappoint; phones, computers, cameras and software we didn’t like or didn’t use.  When it comes to technology, you pays your money and you takes your chances.  

There are special grounds for buyer’s remorse in this case.  Some experts say the iPad must fail.  Smart phones deliver music.  Laptops deliver movies and ebooks.  The iPad is fighting for an excluded middle, they say, a market that doesn’t exist. 

I think the critics are wrong.  I think the iPad will be a smash hit.  I think it will find a place in our lives by making a place in our lives.  I think it will change the way we use media. 

Here’s how.  My smart phone is too small to show movies.  My ThinkPad, with its 256 GB of cluttered storage, is too small to store them.  I need is a big screen.  And I need storage doesn’t act like a loading dock, with me shuttling things in and out.  I want room enough to install several movies and leave them there. 

Is this just me?  Surely, everyone needs access to movies and TV.  These are the great conduits of our culture.  Perhaps, more important they are our respite in times of crisis.  Like being being stuck in an airplane or an airport, surrounded by crowds and screaming children.  The moving image, as Jet Blue discovered, is a great palliative.  One wants to be prepared.  iPad looks like preparation.  It will be our prophylactic against the horror of air travel.

Second, most of us now most hours of the day, laptop in place.  Even when we break for newspapers and magazines, we remain on line.  So the laptop remains in place.  This is a problem.  It means carrying our work frame of mind into our reading frame of mind.  

When working, we are hard-charging and results oriented.  When reading, we are more contemplative.   We read each story and opinion to see if it’s a) interesting, b) useful and if it isn’t, we spin it on an axis to see if and how we can make it interesting.  (For some reason, I find squinting seems to help this process, but probably that’s just me.)  Getting my news and editorial into the right form will help me use the right frame of mind.  If this gives me access one better idea a month, the iPad will pay for itself in short order.

Third, too much work makes us dull boys and girls.  The last thing I want to do at the end of a long day on my ThinkPad is to watch a movie on my ThinkPad.  The very point of the exercise is to put a little separation between work and leisure.  Without it, my leisure time doesn’t have the same recreational effect.  If the iPad can help restores this, it will serve me very well.

In all of this, iPad is creating its own market between the smart phone and the laptop.  We could call this a “white space” or a “blue ocean” but I prefer to think of it as a “third space.”  In the manner of Zeno’s paradox (and, yes, Starbucks), Apple managed to split the difference between existing categories, and honor the way the consumer sees entertainment, contemplation and recreation.  The iPad critics can’t see this third space because they work from a utilitarian point of view.  For them, iPad will create economic value only if it solves practical problems.  But Apple has always seen the economic proposition as a cultural one, as an opportunity to speak to the entire consumer in all of his or her complexity, not just the problem solver.  

So I say the iPad will flourish.  Now if only the doorbell would ring.  

Post script: I have used iPad for several weeks.  It’s strange to go back to a paper newspaper.  It feels like going back to a IBM Selectric typewriter after the launch of personal computers, really clumsy and laborious.  How quickly we adjust.  And, against Scitovsky’s "joyless economy" notion, it seems to me that it will be a very long time before the pleasure of using an iPad turns to mere comfort.  

Reference

Scitovsky, Tibor. 1976. The Joyless Economy: An inquiry into human satisfaction and consumer dissatisfaction. New York: Oxford University Press.

* This just in: Carl Howe says "Apple’s iPad will likely take the crown for the fastest consumer product growth to the $1 billion revenue mark in history, taking less than 120 days from announcement to reach that milestone."  Howe, Carl.  2010.  A New Record for Apple.  Seeking Alpha.  May 5.  here.